It started poorly for the Buffalo Bills and looked like it was only going to get worse before the team rattled off twenty unanswered points to come from behind and beat the ravens 23-20 in the rain in Baltimore on Sunday.
The Bills won the toss and opted to receive the opening kick. On just the third play of the drive, Josh Allen had a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted. The Ravens would punch the ball in two plays later to take a 7-0 lead before the game had really even started.
For much of the first half, it felt like Buffalo hadn’t fully recovered from their draining battle against the Dolphins last week. They gained just 139 yards in the first half on just eight minutes and 50 seconds of possession time. They turned the ball over twice were 2-6 on third down and went three and out twice. Devin Singletary and James Cook both dropped a pass, Jamison Crowder dropped two, and Singletary also had the ball stripped away from him after his best run of the half.
The first half was epitomized by a play in which Von Miller had Lamar Jackson in his grasp, only for the quarterback to spin his way out and launch a deep pass to Mark Andrews, much like Kyler Murray did against the Bills last year. However, this pass was tipped up in the air and, somehow, caught by Ravens wide receiver Devin Duvernay.
It was the type of miraculous play that you can’t believe you just watched and seems to only happen against the Bills.
— 3rd and Forever (@3rd_forever10k) October 2, 2022
Yet, despite all of that, they trailed just 20-10 at the half.
Even with the Ravens scoring 20 points in the first half, it wasn’t really a poor first half by the defense. They allowed 169 yards in total and held Lamar Jackson to 108 yards passing, even though he did complete 13 of 17 passes.
And when that final whistle blew, even though it was after Tyler Bass had kicked a chip-shot field goal through the uprights, it was the defense that won the Bills this game.
They allowed just 296 yards of total offense, sacked Lamar Jackson twice, and picked him off another two times. They held the Ravens scoreless in the second half and allowed only 10 points all game not on short-field drives after a turnover. It was just a continuation of the success Leslie Frazier’s defense has had against Lamar Jackson, who was held to just 144 yards passing, even though he did run for 73 yards on 11 carries.
A big part of the success for the Buffalo defense was that they welcomed back Jordan Poyer and Dane Jackson this week, which was huge after the team was forced to play practice squad cornerback Ja’Marcus Ingram was week against Miami. Jackson was seemingly all over the field, breaking up passes and making big tackles in the open field, while Poyer came up with two huge interceptions and was the captain in the secondary that the Bills so desperately missed last week.
The biggest moment for the defense came just when it seemed like they were finally going to give in.
The Bills went three-and-out after Poyer’s first interception at midfield, but Sam Martin, the Bills’ little-used punter, pinned the Ravens inside their five-yard line. A stand by the defense could have given the offense the ball back with the game still tied at 20 apiece.
Instead, the defense allowed a 14-play, 93-yard drive that lasted nine minutes and 23 seconds and included Jackson scrambling for an 18-yard first down on 3rd-and-12.
However, when the Ravens had first and goal, the Buffalo defense responded, shutting down three straight running plays before Poyer picked off yet another pass in the end zone to close out the crucial goal-line stand.
It was a huge play that slightly covered up how vulnerable Buffalo looked on the ground without Ed Oliver and Jordan Phillips. JK Dobbins ran for 41 yards and a touchdown on nine carries in the first half, before being shut out on four second-half carries, but Justice Hill then gashed the Bills on outside runs, ripping off 45 yards on eight carries before leaving with an injury.
In total, the Bills allowed 162 yards on the ground.
But it didn’t matter at the end of the day because they got their big stop and then Allen led the offense 77 yards on 12 plays, including one questionable roughing the passer call, to set up Tyler Bass’ game-winning field goal.
The final drive was vintage Allen, including a beautiful 20-yard pass to Dawson Knox that Allen flicked over two defenders when his primary read, Stefon Diggs, was covered. It was a stark change from the first half when it seemed like offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey seemed intent on not putting too much on Josh Allen’s plate after he threw 63 passes in last week’s game against the Dolphins in that 100-degree heat.
They tried to get Devin Singletary and Zack Moss going on the ground, even calling a run for Moss on 3rd-and-1 and a Moss run at midfield after the aforementioned Poyer interception.
None of it went well early on.
Even with Mitch Morse (elbow) and Ryan Bates (concussion) back, Buffalo’s offensive line continued to struggle. Pro Football Focus ranked their line as the worst run-blocking unit through the first three weeks, and that showed itself again on Sunday with an inability to get any consistent push. They also weren’t engaging their defender through passing plays either, allowing four Josh Allen passes to be tipped at the line of scrimmage, including that first interception.
The line continues to be a real issue and is starting to look like something that could keep this offense from taking the team to the heights they hope to go.
Buffalo wasn’t able to get anything going on offense until the final drive of the half when they were forced to speed up the tempo to score as the clock was winding down. It was an 11-play, 76-yard drive that ended in a touchdown, and Allen accounted for 72 of those yards.
It seemed to flip a switch for the offense.
Josh Allen scrambled for 20 yards on the first offensive play of the 3rd quarter, and that seemed to open up opportunities for the rest of the Bills in both the run and the passing game. The Bills took that opening drive 51 yards, but stalled out in the driving rain and opted for a field goal to bring the game to 20-13.
Allen wouldn’t allow them to stall the next time.
After forcing another Baltimore punt, Allen led a nine-play, 80-yard drive that he finished off himself with an 11-yard touchdown run.
Allen finished 19-for-36 for 213 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for 70 yards and another score on the ground. It was not a ceiling Josh Allen performance, but it was enough to get his team into the win column in a game that they didn’t seem likely to pull out for the majority of the contest.
However, while the resiliency of this team is to be commended, and the Bills remain one of the elite teams in the NFL, the injury bug is also a big concern. We’ve covered it ad nauseam the last few weeks, but the Bills continued to lose players on Sunday, with both wide receivers Jamison Crowder and Isaiah McKenzie leaving with injuries and not returning. Crowder had an ankle injury, while McKenzie was ruled out with a concussion.
With Jake Kumerow also out, and Gabe Davis battling an ankle injury, this once-deep Buffalo wide receiver corps is starting to thin out. Even though Davis is on the field, he simply doesn’t look like himself, dropping a touchdown last week and then dropping another two passes this week.
Lucky for Buffalo, rookie fifth-round pick Khalil Shakir stepped up, catching his only two passes for 23 yards, including one beautiful toe-tapper on the sideline where he came back for the ball. It was the type of effort that keeps somebody on the field in subsequent weeks.
At the end of the day, the Bills needed this win. They needed it after the heart-breaking loss to the Dolphins. They needed it after the brutal string of injuries, and they needed it after hearing people say they couldn’t win one-score games.
There are still issues to fix and obstacles to face, but these are the type of wins that teams can grow from.
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